Natasha Jackson’s classroom was buzzing. Huddled around laptops at tables throughout the room, her sixth graders showed off their coding projects Thursday to the younger students.
Among the sixth graders was Wilfred Larios, who used code to guide a digital sprite on an adventure to explore the ancient Tigris-Euphrates river system. At times, he hit snags. With coding, it takes practice to get the result you want. By now though, he was a pro.
“It’s taught me more of problem-solving and more computer science,” Wilfred said.
Jennings Creek Elementary School students got the chance Thursday to demonstrate what they’ve been learning through coding with a showcase for their parents and fellow students.
After opening last year, Jennings Creek Principal Jamie Woosley said the school is the only one in the state to implement a K-6 coding curriculum for all students. The lessons vary by age group, but each student spends at least 30 minutes a day learning to code.
The school’s goal isn’t necessarily to create the next Bill Gates, however.
“We’re not trying to make all these students ‘coders,’ ” Woosley said. “It’s about the process.”
Writing a line of computer code involves the same kind of sequential and logical thinking students use when they write a sentence or solve a math problem. Students hone their coding skills each day, while their teachers develop new ways to adapt to what their students are learning to different subject areas.
In practice, that means students create their own games, interactive stories and animations through Scratch, a programming language and online community developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Later in the year, students will learn to work with robotics.
Bill Pratt, a technology coach with Code to the Future, has been helping the school’s teachers implement the program.
“The students not only are learning coding, but they’re also getting skills that our employers want,” he said. “That’s problem-solving, critical thinking, grit and working through and trying different things. … They make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.”
Pratt said he hopes the program lights a spark in students to learn more as they move through school. That might be the case for Wilfred. Asked if he can see himself becoming a computer scientist, he responded, “Definitely.”